Seahawks set program record, advance to semis
NEWPORT, R.I. – Graduate student Ryan Birrell (Hope, R.I.) led all players with 23 points, scoring 15 in the second half to help the Salve Regina University men's basketball team hold off a late charge from Husson University and earn a 78-71 victory during the quarterfinal round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship tournament at the Rodgers Recreation Center on Wednesday night. With the victory, the Seahawks improve to 20-9 overall, tying the program record for most wins in a single season. The victory also marks the Seahawks' first-ever ECAC Championship win. The Eagles conclude their season with an overall record of 15-13 after starting the year 1-8 over their first nine contests.
Birrell shot 7-of-15 from the floor, including three treys, adding eight rebounds and five assists in the win. Sophomore Joshua Hohlfelder (Noank, Conn.) also had a big night, scoring a career-high 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor, while also recording six rebounds, three steals, and a pair of blocks on the night. Sophomore Isiah Pringle (Queens, N.Y.) chipped-in with 13 points, while sophomore Jeff Bielefeld (Littleton, Mass.) barely missed a double-double, compiling eight points and 10 boards for the Seahawks.
The Eagles were paced by sophomore Luis Medina (Hartford, Conn.) who had an impressive all-around game, compiling 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks while shooting 8-of-14 from the field, including a game-high four treys. Sophomore Phil Leighton (Naples, Maine) and senior Brad Libby (Brewer, Maine) each scored in double-figures for the visitors, while junior Eric Modica (Kittery, Maine) had nine points and nine boards in the loss.
The Seahawks jumped out to an early 8-0 lead as Pringle connected on a pair of threes in the opening two minutes of the contest.
After the Eagles climbed back within five at 15-10, the Seahawks got consecutive layups from sophomore Patrick Dinneen (Medfield, Mass.) and junior William Smiley (Saunderstown, R.I.) to take a nine-point lead with under 11 minutes remaining in the opening half.
The Salve Regina lead swelled to as many as 11 with just under three minutes remaining on the clock when the Eagles went on a 12-6 run to close the half, sending the two clubs into the intermission with the Seahawks holding a 42-37 advantage.
After Daeshawn McMorrin (Naugatuck, Conn.) scored on a layup in the opening six seconds of the second half to bring the Eagles back to within three, the Seahawks received an old-fashioned three-point play from Bielefeld and three-point basket by Hohlfelder to push the lead back to nine, 48-39.
The Eagles responded with six unanswered points of their own, including a layup by junior Marc Zaharchuk (Richmond, Maine), a trey by Modica, and a free throw by Libby to get back within three at 48-45.
Salve Regina then went on a 12-5 run, including seven points from Birrell, to build the lead back up to 10 with under 11 minutes remaining in the second period.
The Seahawks grabbed their largest lead of the contest after a three-pointer by Birrell gave the home team a 73-60 advantage with under four and a half minutes on the clock.
However, the Eagles refused to go away quietly, roaring back with nine unanswered points, including seven points from Medina to cut the Salve Regina lead down to 73-69 with 1:15 remaining.
Freshman Brendan Canova (Edina, Minn.) then hit 5-of-6 clutch free throws down the stretch to help the Seahawks hold on for the 78-71 victory.
The Seahawks will travel to WPI in Worcester, Mass. on Saturday to take on #3 Elms College in the ECAC Championship semifinals at noon. It will be Salve Regina's 30th game of the season, marking the first time in program history that the team has played 30 games in a season.